Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Assigned on Briefs April 26, 2017
from the Circuit Court for Hawkins County No. 2016CV124 Alex
E. Pearson, Judge No. E2016-01915-CCA-R3-CD
Elliott ("the Appellant") was found guilty of
"improper passing" by the city judge of the
Municipal Court of Church Hill and appealed to the circuit
court. In a trial de novo, the Appellant was found guilty of
violating Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-8-118 and was
fined twenty-five dollars. Because the Appellant was found
guilty in municipal court of violating a municipal ordinance,
a civil offense; the subject matter jurisdiction of the
circuit court in the trial de novo was limited to a violation
of the municipal ordinance. The circuit court erred in
finding the Appellant guilty of violating a state criminal
statute. The judgment of the circuit court is reversed, and
the case remanded for a new trial to determine if the
Appellant violated a municipal ordinance of the City of
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Reversed and Remanded
Elliott, Church Hill, Tennessee, Pro Se.
William E. Phillips, Rogersville, Tennessee, for the
appellee, City of Church Hill.Shelly L. Wilson, Knoxville,
Tennessee; Rebecca Ketchie, Kingsport, Tennessee; Jason H.
Long, Knoxville, Tennessee; Edward D. Lanquist and Allan F.
Ramsaur; Nashville, Tennessee, for the Amicus Curiae,
Tennessee Bar Association.
L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.,
L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE.
in Municipal Court
the very limited record before us, we can discern that Roger
Elliott ("the Appellant") was issued a
"Misdemeanor Citation" for "improper
passing" by Church Hill Police Officer K. Grigsby.
The citation commands the Appellant to appear in the
Municipal Court of Church Hill at 8:00 a.m. on January 20,
2016. Based upon handwritten notations on the
citation, the Appellant arrived late for court, Officer
Grigsby had already left, and the case was reset. Following a
bench trial on February 17, 2016, the matter was reset to
March 16, 2016, "for decision after research."
Under the section of the citation titled "Judgment"
is written "Improper Passing found guilty, " the
signature of the municipal judge, and the date March 16,
2016. At two places on the citation, "$124" is
in Circuit Court
Appellant timely appealed to the Circuit Court for Hawkins
County. The Appellant filed a motion for summary judgment on
July 25, 2016. In the "Memorandum of Law" section
of the motion, the Appellant states: "Ludwick v.
Doe, 914 S.W.2d 522 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1995) emphasizes
that Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-8-118 permits the
safe use of any paved part of the roadway, not just the
main-traveled part, to pass safely right of a left-turning
vehicle." Chronologically, this is the first reference
to § 55-8-118 that appears in the record. The record
does not contain an order ruling on the motion for summary
a bench trial on September 19, 2015, the circuit court issued
a one-page order which provided:
On December 20, 2015, at approximately 9:55 PM, [the
Appellant] violated the provisions of TCA 55-8-118
(b) by failing to safely pass a stopped vehicle, at the
intersection of Main Street and Central Avenue in Church
Hill, TN. After a bench trial, the Hon. Allen Coup found [the
Appellant] guilty of violating said statute and his judgment
was rendered on March 16, 2016. Following a trial de novo,
Judge Alex Pearson found on Sept. 19, 2016, that beyond a
reasonable doubt, defendant had violated the
aforemention[ed] statute, again following a bench trial
testimony of one witness, and argument of counsel. [The]
Appellant's fine is reduced to $25.00 and court costs are
taxed to the bond.
to the Court of Appeals
September 20, 2016, the Appellant filed a timely Notice of
Appeal from the September 19, 2016 judgment of the circuit
court to the "Court of Appeals (Civil)." The Court
of Appeals determined that "[b]ecause [the Appellant]
was charged and found guilty of violating a state statute,
rather than a municipal ordinance, we conclude that we are
without subject matter jurisdiction to consider this
appeal" and transferred the matter to the Court of
Criminal Appeals. City of ...